With Covid-19 vaccination certificates becoming mandatory around the world, some people are turning to social platforms like Telegram to buy fake health passes.
These are easily found online and reportedly cost around €100 (US$118, RM500), says Euronews.
In just a few months, accounts selling photoshopped certificates that are being delivered via email have grown in number in Europe and around the world, triggering an increase in cyber-crime, experts at the cybersecurity company Check Point have said.
“Scammers and channels on Telegram are very responsive. They ask you all the questions, details, etc. Everything that you want to put on the certificate,” Oded Vanunu, the head of products vulnerability at Check Point Software Technologies, told Euronews.
Italy and other European countries have introduced smartphone apps to verify whether a certificate is authentic or not, but that might not be enough say security experts.
Between March and December 2020, the number of certificate sellers went from around 20 to 1,500 and now the numbers are skyrocketing, according to experts at Check Point.
Counterfeiters are always changing their products and offers to keep up with the latest rules being imposed by national governments, airlines, and global hotel chains.
For those not anticipating international travel any time soon, increasing numbers of local restaurants, gyms and nightclubs now also need evidence before they can let customers in.
Even large employers such as Microsoft and other Silicon Valley giants now require employees to be vaccinated before they can return to the office, which is not going down well with freedom-loving Americans, especially in ultra-liberal and ultra-conservative areas, who are intensely suspicious of anything they interpret as government overreach.
Vaccine refusers and other unvaccinated people without official exemptions are the most likely to buy fake health passes, with people who have had just one dose of the vaccine next in line.
“And let’s not forget there are billions of people around the world who didn’t yet manage to get vaccinated at all,” Vanunu added.
Many authorities are turning to the multi-squared QR code to beef up security and deter counterfeiting.
Italy’s Head of National Cyber Crime Unit warns likely pass-buyers that soon it will be extremely difficult to get away with a fake QR code to access events, places, or even countries.
“On one hand, legal health passes contain a QR code that includes a computer-generated certification that proves its authenticity. On the other hand, you have an app that allows users to compare information contained in that QR code with the national database containing data on vaccinated people. That’s why it’s impossible to create a fake QR code,” Ivano Gabrielli, head of the national cybercrime unit in Italy, told Euronews.
But despite national prevention systems becoming more efficient, tracking this type of fraud has also become extremely challenging, especially when it comes to international travel because border control authorities lack an international database of vaccinated people around the world.
Experts say that no doubt the UN or WHO or similar global bodies are currently working on establishing such databases.